Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Loose ends

Strawberries sans cream © Magnus Andersson

A few of my blog postings seem to end in the words 'more on that later', but frankly, once I've posted something I don't necessarily feel the need to go back and revisit it once again. But in attempt to be diligent and to keep you, my fine readers, coming back, I shall tie up some loose ends and give you closure (sort of) on one thing: Wimbledon.

It obviously finished a while ago now, but for me it was a really good insight into how a global sporting event like this works. I get a feeling that the same togs tend to go every year, so if you have a good year, your agency/paper/magazine will ask you to do it again the next year. For me it was a bit of a mess though, because I'd never covered sports before, let alone such a major event. I look at sports photography quite a lot, but seeing what kind of pictures that are being used and then trying to teach yourself exactly that are two very different things. First of all you need the kit.

I'm ashamed to tell you what kind of kit my newspaper supplies me with after having been at Wimbledon but here goes: one Nikon D2Hs (no spare body, just ONE), 17-35/2.8, 50/1.8 and a 80-200/2.8. That's it.

Swedish veteran Bjorkman lays into one © Magnus Andersson

Not a lot that you can do with that at a sporting event for sure, but luckily I own a 300/2.8 personally, and that came in handy, especially on the cropped D2Hs sensor, but overall, I felt like
I was back doing work experience again, watching all these 400 VR's and 600mm's and 2-3 bodies dangling off each photographer, while I had to make do with a student kit. Allegedly we will upgrade our kit in a year or so. Ho hum.

Court One from the corner pit © Magnus Andersson

However, help was at hand. Nikon and Canon were both there, and they basically let you have any kit you wanted for a day or two - as long as you signed your life away. That meant I was swinging D3's and D300 all day long, and let me tell you, the D3 is the shit. I've never felt a camera to be that responsive and intuitive in my life, and the files that it produces are wonderful. Combine that with a super fast AF, superb colour rendering and high ISO performance and you have a camera that every single newspaper photographer would want to own at least two of. Many thanks to Alex and the rest of the staff at Nikon UK for sorting me out on my days at the Championship.

Sadly, I managed to get myself barred as well...

Centre Court from the stand pit © Magnus Andersson

My pass allowed me access for the first ten days, and after that they take a view on who can come and why. I asked if I could come on Ladies Final day (Saturday, it ends the next day) and was told it was OK. Never mind that I wasn't paid for this, going to shoot Wimbledon is a rare opportunity so I got up early to get to (unpaid) work that morning, even though I had worked 14 days in a row by this stage. I paid the parking attendant his £25 (parking fee's are ridiculous) and went to the entrances. I put the unwanted of my gear in my locker inside the photographic area, then went to the Nikon people to pick up some much wanted gear and headed to Centre Court.

Court 18 from above © Magnus Andersson

First off was the Williams' sisters final and I just made it in time. Three security guys checked my pass and let me in. I got a spot near the baseline, right next to a big TV camera, but there were still a few empty seats around us, so I was OK for elbow space. The final unfolded in two straight sets, a blessing when it comes to editing. I don't envy the guys who had to shoot the men's final. Five long sets with several rain delays. They had to be there at 2pm and probably didn't leave until long after midnight, and got wet in between...

Shot on a borrowed Nikon D3 & 14mm 2.8 © Magnus Andersson

Next I was headed over to Court One to cover teenage wonder kid Laura Robson in her final. I heard somebody shout my name and turned around to find Russell from the photo office chasing me. He came up and asked me in his stern Scottish tones: 'Were you in the pit at the Ladies final'? I said: 'Yes'. He told me that I wasn't supposed to be there, that I was in breach of Wimbledon rules by being there and taking pictures.

Bjorkman squeeze down to fit my full frame © Magnus Andersson

I thought 'Oh shit, I'm out the door right now'. I was taken back to the office to find out how it had happened that I was let in to that Williams final. It turned out that that they have a sticker system on Finals' days and I had not been assigned one, and hence wasn't allowed to shoot that final. My bad. I wasn't aware of this system, but rules are rules. I think security had a lapse for not spotting the missing sticker on my badge, but I apologised profusely to Russell and his colleagues for causing trouble when I wasn't even aware that I was.

Line umpire tries to ignore photographer © Magnus Andersson

What happened next was rough but fair. Russell had a quick chat with Bob and then spelt it out for me: 'You are banned from Wimbledon next year. Your newspaper is welcome, but you, personally, can't come back. Now go and photograph the final you came to photograph'. And he left it at that, so thanks Russell, for letting me shoot Laura's match.

Laura Robson kisses her trophy © Magnus Andersson

Next year I hope one of my colleagues will learn from my mistakes. Anyway, I'd still like to thank Bob Martin, Russell Cheyne, Trisha and the French girl (still don't know her name) for making it a great event for me.

Thought for the day: Ignorance might be an explanation, but its not an excuse.

Venus Williams mesmerized by her new bling © Magnus Andersson


Tom said...

Its still a bit rough even if rules are rules. A bit of flexibility can be a wonderful thing. I suppose the whole system may fall apart though if they start giving a bit of slack here and there. Just sort yourself out with a new ID for next year. How are you focusing when you're shooting sports like this?

Magster said...

mostly the AF is on the 3D tracking, not a chance in hell to track it manually...